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Columbia Missourian

Ups, downs and tension for Missouri fans at Bucknell game

By Brendan Meyer
January 5, 2013 | 8:31 p.m. CST
Bucknell guard Steven Kaspar takes the ball to the hoop around Missouri guard Phil Pressey on Saturday at Mizzou Arena. Missouri survived a close game to win 66-64.

COLUMBIA — Half were standing, half were sitting.

Missouri was tied with 3:04 left in the game, and a crowd that was announced as sold-out was split evenly between fans' feet and their seats.

The No. 12-ranked Tigers (10-2) were facing the unranked Bucknell Bison (13-2), the first game in Mizzou Arena since Dec. 17 and the first time fans could see their team after an exciting win over Illinois two weeks ago and a disappointing overtime loss to UCLA on Dec. 28.

Missouri would eventually win, 66-64, but there was tension.

Phil Pressey made a three-pointer, and the half that was sitting quickly joined the rest of the arena standing, cheering as loud as ever.

Score: 60-57 Missouri with 2:56 left.

Missouri had struggled early in the game, shooting 34.4 percent in the first half, but was now starting to build an offensive rhythm, trading leads with the Bison all throughout in the second half.

But the fans' excitement was short-lived.

Bucknell’s Joe Willman quickly responded with a jumper, cutting the lead to 1, forcing a collective groan throughout the stadium, 60-59 with 2:42 left.

The fans sat.

Forty seconds later, Earnest Ross made a tough fade-away jumper, pushing the lead to three. 

The fans stood. 

One minute later, Bucknell's Mike Muscala had a put-back layup, and as some fans slowly began to slouch back into their seats, Missouri quickly responded with a fast break dunk by Keion Bell, the score now 64-61 with 35 seconds left.

But Muscala followed with yet another basket, cutting the lead to 64-63 with only 13 seconds left.

Some fans shook their heads, others put their hands over their mouths. The Tigers had just lost a game in the final seconds to UCLA last week, a possibility that was becoming all too real once again.

Ross was quickly fouled following an inbound pass, and made both free throws, the score now 66-63 with three seconds left. Missouri then fouled Muscala, who made one of out two free throws, resulting in a 66-64 Missouri win.

The liveliest and largest crowd that Mizzou Arena had seen this season cheered, 13,856 fans all staying until the final buzzer, standing, sitting, cheering, groaning, and exhaling throughout the game.

They filed out of the stadium, some smiling, some still shaking their heads.

This was the last game of the non-conference season for the Tigers, and the atmosphere should be similar when Missouri begins its inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday against Alabama.